What is the difference between oil based and water based stain?

Asked By: Gora Touris | Last Updated: 9th January, 2020
Category: hobbies and interests painting
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Water-based stains can adhere to wood that has been previously painted with an oil-based stain. Water-based stains are not nearly as flammable as oil-based stains. Water-based stains dry relatively quickly and allow for a quick fix. Water-based stains emit an odor not quite as potent as oil-based stains.

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Similarly, how can you tell the difference between oil and water based stains?

Oil based stains are somewhat more water resistant than the water based finishes. Due to this, by sprinkling a little water onto the stained area you can tell if the stain is water or oil based. Simply wait for a minute and see if the water beads up. If it does, then you have an oil based stain.

Beside above, what is oil based wood stain? 1. Oil Based Stain. Oil-based wood stains are the most commonly used and they are what comes to may woodworkers mind when they think of wood stain. These stains will have a linseed oil base or a mixture of linseed with varnish which gives woodworkers plenty of time to wipe off any excess before the stain dries.

Subsequently, one may also ask, what is the difference between oil based and water based polyurethane?

COLOR: Oil based poly has an amber hue, whereas water based poly is clear. An oil based polyurethane will continue to amber and darken over time, while water based poly will remain clear for the lifetime of the hardwood floor. Water based poly dries much faster, and several coats (up to 4) can be applied in one day.

Can you mix water and oil based stains?

You cannot mix water- and oil-based products together. General Finishes Enduro-Var Urethane Topcoat can only be used over raw wood or General Finishes water-based wood stains or dye stains. Oil-based finishes amber over time; do not use them over white or very light colors.

36 Related Question Answers Found

Is oil based deck stain better than water based?

The better a wood decking stain penetrates the better it performs and lasts. By nature, oil based deck stains are easier to apply than water based. Oils stains are normally more natural looking than water based stains. They enhance the beauty of the wood by allowing more of the wood grain to show through.

What type of stain dries the slowest?

Oil-based wood stain is slow to dry, but once it is fully set, it lasts longer than water-based stains.

How long does oil based stain take to dry?

Indoors: Most oil based stains will be dry to the touch in 1-2 hours and a recoat can generally be applied in roughly 2 hours. A recommended time of 8 hours (minimum) is recommended before applying a topcoat.

How do you test for oil based stain?


The best way to check if your stain is oil or latex based is by using denatured alcohol (rubbing alcohol will work as well). Put some on a clean rag (preferably white) and rub it on the stain. If it comes off on the rag, it is latex (water) based, if it does not, it is oil based.

Is Thompson's Water Seal oil based or water based?

Thompson's® WaterSeal® Penetrating Timber Oil is an oil-based product that provides protection by penetrating into wood pores and sealing out water infiltration. Thompson's® WaterSeal® Waterproofing Stains are water-based products that have film-forming properties to protect the wood by repelling water.

What is the best water based stain?

The Best Wood Stains
  • BEST WATER-BASED STAIN: SamaN Wood Stain.
  • BEST OIL-BASED STAIN: Watco Danish Oil Wood Finish.
  • BEST VARNISH STAIN: Minwax Polyshades Stain & Polyurethane.
  • BEST GEL STAIN: Minwax Gel Stain.
  • BEST EXTERIOR STAIN: Ready Seal Wood Stain and Sealer.

How do you apply oil based stain?

Staining Process
  1. Step 1 - Sand the wood.
  2. Step 2 - Use a clean, slightly dampened paintbrush to wet the wood.
  3. Step 3 - Apply the stain to the wood surface.
  4. Step 4 - Wipe away any excess stain with a clean rag.
  5. Step 5 - Let the stain dry for about an hour.

Is oil based polyurethane more durable than water based?

Oil based polyurethane lasts longer than water based.
There is no contest on the durability between the 2 options. Water based polyurethane has lower VOC's - which is a bit of an environmental benefit (more about that in a moment) - but because it has lower VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds), it doesn't last as long.

How long does water based polyurethane last?


But, if you are using a mid grade water poly (or low grade), expect the durability to be significantly lower than oil based poly. When I say lower durability, I mean that it will scratch and peel more easily and it won't last last as long (often 2 to 4 years less, but everyone's wear and tear is different).

How many coats of polyurethane should I apply?

There needs to be 3 coats of Polyurethane applied, especially if you are using an oil-based finish. The first coat should be mixed with mineral spirits. This acts as a sealer and provides a barrier between the wood and the oil finish you are using. A bristle brush is needed to apply the coats.

What is the best finish for a table top?

Varnish and oil-based poly finishes are the most durable. Tung oil and linseed oil are relatively durable. In general, it's best to stay away from shellac. Lacquer can be tough, but it tends to take on a yellow color as time goes by.

Is water based polyurethane any good?

Both water based and oil based poly offer good protection; the biggest difference is in appearance. It's actually the most durable hardwood floor finish. If you love the natural look of maple, apply a water-based (waterborne) polyurethane. They cost twice as much as oil-based polys.

Which is better oil based or water based varnish?

In the past, oil-based finishes were more durable than their water-based counterparts. Water-based varnish does not amber over time, and keeps the color of your wood truer than an oil-based finish would. However, it also “flattens out” the wood grain, and unlike oil-based finishes, does not enhance the grain.

What is the best polyurethane?


The Minwax® Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane is the best polyurethane because it's great for anything you need to coat around your home. It's water based so it produces less fumes and cleans up easily with warm water. It's also a great polyurethane because it's available in gloss, semi-gloss and satin sheens.

Can I put water based stain over oil based?

ANSWER: Yes! but the underlying finish has to be absolutely dry. When using a water based topcoat over an oil based stain, allow oil based finishes, such as Java Gel Stain, to dry at least 72 hours before coating with a water based topcoat. → Oil based finishes amber over time.

Can you apply oil based polyurethane with a roller?

Polyurethane is easily applied with a paint brush or roller and dries quickly. Applying the material with a roller eliminates brush strokes and lines and prevents over-applying the material. Polyurethane is available at hardware, home improvement and paint supply stores as well as online.